No glass ceiling for two leading ladies

6th July 2007 at 01:00
Two outstanding heads have been honoured one for her winning way with staff, the other for 39 years of innovation at the helm of her school

Head of the Year

patricia kennedy, headteacher of the year in this year's Scottish Education Awards, made headlines in March when her school received a record 11 "excellent" gradings out of a potential 15 from HMIE (the other four were, of course, no less than "very good").

At the time, she said the secret for the success of St Mark's Primary in Barrhead was "simply that everyone on the staff thinks about the sort of education we would want to provide for our own children which would be the best possible. We then go on to deliver that for all of our pupils." That's certainly part of it, but not all.

John Wilson, director of education at East Renfrewshire, acknowledges that one of Mrs Kennedy's strengths is that "she doesn't have any boundaries for the kids as far as attainment is concerned".

He credits Mrs Kennedy with taking over a school that was "on its knees" 10 years ago and turning it into one that school inspectors described as outstanding for its teaching at all stages, its leadership, self-evaluation, and ethos.

St Mark's is not situated in one of East Renfrewshire's leafy suburbs; it has a free meal entitlement of 22 per cent above the Scottish average of 19 per cent.

It is therefore all the more commendable that it outperforms many schools in more socially advantaged areas.

Mrs Kennedy believes that all teachers have their own individual strengths and encourages her staff to use their "McCrone time" to observe each others' lessons and learn from one another.

"Nearly all of them have a principal teacher remit and the principal teacher has more of a deputy head's remit," she said. When HMIE talk about distributed leadership, and leading learning in the classroom, this is the kind of model they have in mind. Even the school's pupils council is "exceptional" in the level of discussion it carries out and the things it achieves for the benefit of the school, says Mr Wilson.

One of Mrs Kennedy's particular talents is her selection of good staff and creation of a quality team around her, according to him.

"She ensures that the basics are done very well and builds on that. She is very good with the children, but she is also very professional with them. She's not all lovey-dovey," he says.

He adds that she is also very good at seeking advice and taking it but also ensuring that it is the best advice that she acts upon.

"Everyone works hard for her the cleaners, the pupil support and classroom assistants they are made to feel part of the team. It's a good place to be," he said.

Lifetime achievement.

Last week, Ann McLanachan tidied her desk and said goodbye to staff and pupils at Longniddry Primary in East Lothian for the last time. After 39 years based in the same school (30 as headteacher), she is retiring. But she is doing it in style crowned last month with the award for lifetime achievement at the Scottish Education Awards.

She jokes that she has seen her first pupils become parents; if she had stayed any longer, she would have seen their grandchildren.

"Someone came in the door last week and said to me: 'Hello, Miss MacLeod.' He had left the school in 1971 before I got married," she said.

Born and brought up in Musselburgh, she did her first teaching practice in Wallyford, and then applied for a job at Longniddry. She started there in May 1968. By the age of 32, she was head.

Apart from two years in the 1980s, when she was appointed to the primary education development project, covering the whole of Scotland at the height of the Educational Institute of Scotland strikes and teacher unrest, she has never left her school.

But it is now a very different school from the one she started out in. At that time there were five classes, falling to four soon afterwards. But from the late 1970s, the pupil roll started to rise. Today, with a more stable community, it has 11 classes and a nursery, although it has been larger.

In nearly 40 years of teaching, she has seen initiatives come and go, with some ideas almost coming full circle. "When I started here, it was quite staid. The textbooks were old and we worked very much to a timetable. Then we moved into topic webs and it was all great fun, but there was not necessarily continuity or robustness of experiences for the kids. We went from that to 5 14, which gave that rigour perhaps it has been a wee bit too rigorous.

"With A Curriculum for Excellence, we are coming back to that cross-curricular opportunity. To some extent, I am sorry to be missing it it is a really exciting time for education."

The initiatives she has valued most have been "bottom up", where class teachers have been totally involved.

"Assessment is for Learning is the one that I think has been most influential in the past few years," she adds.

Alan Blackie, her director of education, says that even though she has stayed in the same school all her career, she has never let the grass grow under her feet.

She has led curriculum development across the authority and been an associate inspector for other primaries, not to mention numerous inservice events and headteacher conferences.

"She has nurtured other great teachers and been a role model for so many people," says Mr Blackie.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today